By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: Hundreds of peaceful bedoon and Kuwaiti protestors gathered on Friday in "Freedom Square" in Taima in Jahra governorate to demand greater rights for stateless people and the abolishment of the Central Agency for Resolving the Status of Illegal Residents. On the 22nd day of their sit-in that they began on Aug 4, activists Fadel Al-Shammari and Basel Al-Shban organized the gathering titled "This Friday for a people who cooperated, not humiliated", in an attempt to pressure the government to give bedoons their full rights.
Shammari revealed he is being harassed by Taima police station officers, who tried to prevent the gathering, although it was legally authorized. "I cannot legally complain because of the unjust Central Agency for Resolving the Status of Illegal Residents. There are a lot of suicides and injustice against the bedoons. We are not against the law, but we strive to be legal - they even took away my ID. We will not remain silent and continue to hold seminars and sit-ins," he said.
Mohammed Al-Barghash, a human rights activist in Kuwait who advocates for the rights of the bedoon community, told Kuwait Times that HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has his full trust to resolve the case that has been festering for over 60 years. "I trust Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf - if the bedoon case is not resolved in his tenure, it will never be resolved. We honestly love him - he is an honest and loyal man for his good reputation, clean history and his noble stance towards the bedoon issue," he said.
Barghash revealed no officials have contacted and reached out to them, and no solutions have been discussed. "We are now coordinating with political forces and civil societies. We want to reach the decision-makers and the legislative authority, but the matter is moving very slowly, unfortunately. We can no longer wait - there must be a fair and just solution to the issue," he said. "The Central Agency for Resolving the Status of Illegal Residents has said 34,000 people are entitled to citizenship, so why haven't they got citizenship until now? Despite their claim that there are many who have other nationalities, why haven't these people been transferred to the judiciary yet?" he asked.
Former MP Mubarak Al-Najada said during the event that there are some unresolved cases since 1919, while outgoing National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem has stated there is a family that is oppressed and must be given Kuwaiti citizenship.
Human rights defender Abdullah Fairouz pointed out that no human has the right to control the fate of over 120,000 Kuwaiti bedoons. "There is a law allowing you the right to information, and it is a vital law that must be used to reveal the position of the central apparatus. The Central Agency for Resolving the Status of Illegal Residents is supposed to have files of every bedoon person, and every person has the right to see the information in their file. If the central agency claims to have 5 million documents, then every person has the right to obtain these documents under law no. 12 of 2020," he said.
Hamoud Sharif, deputy of the National Bloc, said bedoons want justice. "Bedoons did not just appear out of nowhere. We were born on this land. We appeal to the prime minister that we have poor, disabled and unmarried girls because of a lack of personal documents. Some sick people need to travel for treatment, but they do not have passports," he said.
More than 100,000 bedoons are long-term residents of Kuwait, with most of them born here and belonging to families who have lived here for generations. They face severe restrictions in their ability to access documentation, employment, healthcare, education and state support. Kuwait claims most of its bedoon population are migrants from other countries who hid their nationalities and classifies them as illegal residents. Authorities have intensified pressure on the community over the last two years to "reveal their country of origin" or accept an "assigned citizenship" based on investigations by Kuwaiti state security services.